Gun youth spared custody after bungled raid at shop
A masked teenager who wielded a sawn-off shotgun during a terrifying store raid before being fought off by a brave shopkeeper will not go to prison – because he is so young.
But today the identity of the teenager behind the bungled robbery attempt was revealed as Jack Phillips – after reporting restrictions previously keeping it hidden were lifted.
Phillips, who was 17 at the time of the offence, was fought off by shopkeeper Ranvir Bassi.
With the weapon pointed at her face and her seven-year-old daughter clinging to her skirt, Mrs Bassi, aged 35, refused to hand over money, pushed the gun away and chased the masked raider to the door of her shop in Stafford. But a judge at Stafford Crown Court has ruled that Phillips should be spared a custodial sentence - to the disgust of Mrs Bassi who said she was shocked he had not been put behind bars.
Under the Firearms Act anyone who uses a gun with intent should receive a custodial sentence – unless there are "exceptional circumstances".
Recorder Michael Elsom said that Phillips' age made it an exceptional case and that the mandatory period of three years in jail should not be imposed.
"If they had the advantage, as I have, of seeing the recording of what occurred, no-one who saw that can think it was anything other than a thoroughly frightening incident.
"Mrs Bassi behaved with extreme bravery – she didn't know the gun you had in your hand was quite incapable of being fired."
The judge ordered that Mrs Bassi be given a £500 reward for her bravery. She was shutting the shop 10 minutes early to visit her son Gurdip, aged eight, who was in hospital suffering from severe eczema, when Phillips stormed in at about 8.20pm.
She was in the stock room with her daughter when they heard shouting – and within seconds they were confronted by the hooded gunman.
But Mrs Bassi refused to be intimidated and screamed: "Get out of my shop". She pushed him backwards towards the door, and as he stumbled out onto the street she locked up and called the police.
Mrs Bassi said at the time that she was spurred into action by hearing her daughter's cries.
Phillips, now aged 18, and formerly of Stafford but now living in Middlesbrough, admitted offences of attempted robbery, possessing a firearm with intent to commit robbery and possessing a prohibited weapon.
He was given two years detention, suspended for two years, ordered to carry out 240 hours unpaid community work and given a six-month curfew.
The video recording of Mrs Bassi tackling the gunman was put the internet by Staffordshire Police in an effort to catch the offender - and it quickly went viral. The video showed him entering the store, pointing the gun at Mrs Bassi, who reacted quickly and within moments was chasing the gunman out and locking the door.
Phillips, though, had been 'seemingly bragging about being in the footage which appeared on Youtube, Stafford crown court heard previously.
Police found the defendant's trainers near Mrs Bassi's shop in Rickerscote Road, Stafford, and the shotgun discarded among some old bike frames nearby.
The gun's stock had been crudely cut down and the barrel shortened. Staffordshire Police's armorer reported it was an old weapon in a poor state which could have been repaired and put in to working condition by someone who knew what they were doing. It was loaded with a live 12-bore round.
Mr Michael Anning, defending, said Phillips didn't persist in his threats and the raid was over in a short period of time.
He had been under pressure in relation to a debt he allegedly owed and the gun was given to him by others to commit the offence, the court heard.
Mrs Bassi's family have run the store for 19 years and she insists they will not be forced out.
But she says the raid badly affected her daughter, who suffered from nightmares and flashbacks.
Mrs Bassi said she was surprised to hear her attacker had not been locked up.
She said: "I'm shocked to be honest. I just want to put it all behind me and move on now, and just forget about it."
Reporting restrictions previously imposed by the court because of the defendant's age have now been lifted.
Chief Inspector Jane Hewett, of Staffordshire Police said: "I would like to commend Mrs Bassi on her bravery in confronting Jack Phillips in November last year.
"She showed tremendous courage when confronted with a masked robber armed with sawn off shot gun. Her ordeal was amplified by the presence of her seven year-old daughter in the shop.
"The community rallied together and responded positively to local press appeals. Both the shotgun and the offender's clothing were located hidden in gardens and undergrowth nearby. Without local community assistance, key evidence may have been lost. "
She added: "This case highlights that the local community and Staffordshire police will not tolerate the use of gun crime in any way, and will work together to ensure anyone who considers using one is arrested and convicted. "
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